Usually driving for me is just getting from one place to another. Not so in the Keys. The drive down US 1 through all the Keys is the only place I ever make a lot of stops… I do some sight-seeing instead of just getting there. It was lunch time so I only intended to made it to Islamorada… about 15 miles down the road. The place I almost always stop is Kokomo… duh! Kokomo is a tiki-bar in the Holiday Isle complex. To my horror, Kokomo is no longer there. The Holiday Isle is now the “Postcard Inn” and all references to Kokomo are gone. I got back in the car and headed back down US 1 toward Key West.
I made it to Marathon… about ½ way to Key West… when hunger got the best of me. My favorite place in Marathon is the Sunset Grill and Raw Bar. Just like it sounds, this is a great place for a sunset dinner. They have a huge menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. On week-end evenings they have live entertainment. They also have a large pool and beach area that is a great spot to spend some time. On Sunday afternoons they have what they claim to be the “Longest running beach and pool party in the Florida Keys.”
This was my first time to visit the Sunset Grill and Raw Bar for lunch. Other times were for an evening meal which were great. I generally linger there till they threw me out late in the evening. This time it was just for lunch so I had their Jerk seasoned grilled chicken sandwich. I ate out by the pool. Since I was driving, it was just water for me to drink. After that it was back on the road. The Sunset Grill and Raw Bar is just before the Seven Mile Bridge.
The Seven Mile Bridge is really just short of 7 miles long… about 6.8 miles, but then who’s counting. It just goes out across the ocean. In any case, it’s one of the Florida Keys icons. Note that the bridge off to the right in the pic is the old railroad bridge that is no longer in use except for walkers and I think bicycles. You will see remnants of the old railway bridge all along the way to Key West.
I love driving down the Keys. It was still quite warm for this trip and with the top down there’s just something magic about that drive. My next stop was in Big Pine Key… about another 16 miles from the Sunset Grill & Raw Bar. Big Pine Key is where a lot of the endangered Key Deer live. Key Deer only live in the lower Florida Keys. Big Pine Key is a preserve and sanctuary for the deer. As you drive onto Big Pine Key, there are warning signs and flashing lights to slow you down.
I’ve never seen any of the Key Deer in the area with all the flashing lights and warning signs. However, you can always find them on near-by “No Name Key”. No Name Key is off to the west of Big Pine Key. You turn right a little bit after you enter the town and drive out. There’s a small sign that points to No Name Key, but you have to look carefully to see it.
Like I do on most trips down the Keys, I drove out to No Name Key to see the deer. It’s really no big deal… The Key Deer are just like “regular” deer except that they are smaller… about the size of a large dog. I don’t know why I always want to go there, but it’s a nice drive and another of those iconic “Keys” things. If you’ve never seen a Key Deer, take a little time to drive out there.
Another reason for going out there is the “No Name Pub”. Despite its name, it is not on No Name Key. Instead it is still on Big Pine Key on the way to No Name Key. This is another of those “Keys things” everyone has to go to at least once. The No Name Pub is a funky little place with dollar bills covering the walls. Although they have a full menu, most people seem to have their pizza. Seating is mostly outside on picnic tables with umbrellas. I didn’t stop this time ‘cause I had already eaten. But if you are driving down the Keys and have not been there, it will be worth your while to check out this old-time Keys hang out.
Big Pine Key is about 30 miles from Key West… and it’s a nice drive. But other than another batch of Keys that are “stepping stones” for the “Overseas Highway”, I have no idea what’s on any of those Keys. With names like Cudjoe Key, Summerland Key, and Sugarloaf Key you would think I would stop and check them out. I always tell myself that I’m going to stop at watering holes with names like Mangrove Mama’s and Square Grouper Bar and Grill… or any of the dozens of tiki bars along the 30 miles. There are also several SCUBA places that should tempt me to stop.
But nooooooo… by the time I leave Big Pine Key I’m foaming at the mouth to get to Key Weird. The slower traffic on the two lane road seems to get more aggravating. I know there’s a frozen concoction to help me hang on waiting in Key West. Since I’m driving, I can’t have that concoction till I get there. It’s not just the booze that’s waiting. It’s the whole Key West experience. I’m like a kid at Christmas… “I just can’t wait”.